An American female activist named Bethany Alhaidari, who escaped Saudi Arabia in 2019, is now at risk of being forced to send her daughter back to the kingdom by a US court, a report by the Human Rights Watch said this Tuesday, September 12, 2023.
According to a report by the Human Rights Watch this Tuesday, the US activist Bethany Alhaidari, who escaped Saudi Arabia in 2019, is at risk of being forced to send her daughter back to the kingdom by a US court because of an ongoing custody dispute.
“If she is forced by the US court to return to the Kingdom with eight-year-old daughter”, the report said, “she would face a serious risk of corporal punishment, lengthy imprisonment, and could even be punished by the death penalty”.
And now, the 36-year-old Alhaidari has to attend a court in the US on this coming October and let her future life with her eight-year-old daughter, Zaina, be determine by the court’s decision.
Alhaidari’s case, not the first one in US!
Alhaidari’s case of custody issues with the Saudi government is not new in the US, as the same story happened for another American mother, whose custody plight for her daughter also reached a dark impasse a couple of weeks ago. The California-born Carly Morris returned to the US last July after being held captive for several years by her ex-husband in Saudi Arabia.
To save her life and return to her hometown in the US, Morris was forced to leave her eight-year-old daughter, Tala, behind following a custody dispute with her husband. Speaking to the Guardian upon her return to the US, Morris said that her husband literally held her captive in a hotel room for years while he took their daughter out during the day.
After months of legal battle with her husband, she finally could convince the court to lift the travel ban against her but she lost custody of her daughter, which means she would never be able to see her again since she can’t come back to Saudi Arabia out of fear of her life. Even when the husband was meant to bring Tala to court with him for a trial date on 23 April, he showed up alone, further to her disappointment.
“We don’t even know where she is at,” she said. “The only way I could get her back is if I win a custody appeal in Saudi. I think it is almost impossible. All the lawyers refuse to take my case. They say ‘you have no chance’.”
Reacting to the report, a spokesperson for the US state department said this Tuesday that its embassies and consulates have no greater priority than the safety and security of US citizens overseas. “We engage on all international child custody dispute cases, advocating for due process and the best interests of the child,” the spokesperson said.
Morris and Alhaidari’s cases show how Saudi Arabia treats women
Both Morris and Alhaidari’s cases are clear examples of the way Saudi Arabia’s laws treat women. The worse are the laws of child custody, where fathers are the default guardians of their children and mothers have no say in this regard.
The story is even more complicated when the wife is a foreigner. In this case, even if the divorced women are granted custody of their child, the child’s Saudi father is still considered the legal guardian, with authority over all important decisions.
For Alhaidari, the October court is a matter of life and death and it could spell disaster unless the court makes a surprising and unexpected decision to allow both the mother and her daughter to stay at home in the United States.